Trump’s hard line unites op­po­nents in Iran

The Witness - - NEWS -

LON­DON — A tough line from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been met by a show of unity from both sides of Iran’s po­lit­i­cal di­vide, unit­ing hard­lin­ers who cast the United States as an im­pla­ca­ble en­emy with prag­ma­tists who seek rap­proche­ment with the West.

Iran, which has kept up a steady drum­beat of hos­tile state­ments for days, lashed out again yes­ter­day, threat­en­ing to teach the Amer­i­cans “new les­sons” and keep “all op­tions on the ta­ble” if Wash­ing­ton black­lists its Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards.

Trump, who has ac­cused his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama of be­ing too soft on Iran, is ex­pected to an­nounce a hard­en­ing of pol­icy this week, likely to in­clude “de­cer­ti­fy­ing” a land­mark 2015 deal that lifted in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions in re­turn for curbs on Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gramme. Such a step would stop short of pulling out of the agree­ment, leav­ing that de­ci­sion to Congress.

Trump is also ex­pected to des­ig­nate Iran’s most pow­er­ful se­cu­rity force, the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps (IRGC), as a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The IRGC has a vast eco­nomic em­pire in Iran, and black­list­ing it could make it more dif­fi­cult for Ira­nian busi­nesses to ac­cess the global fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

“It seems the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der­stands only swear words, and needs some shocks to un­der­stand the new mean­ing of power in the world,” Ira­nian armed forces spokesper­son Ma­soud Jaza­y­eri, who is also a Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards com­man­der, said.

“The Amer­i­cans have driven the world crazy by their be­hav­iour. It is time to teach them a new les­son.”

Sev­eral Ira­nian news­pa­pers ran the same photo on the front page yes­ter­day: the ur­bane, U.S.­ed­u­cated For­eign Min­is­ter Javad Zarif laugh­ing and hug­ging the com­man­der of the IRGC, Ma­jor­General Mo­ham­mad Ali Ja­fari, in a striking dis­play of unity be­tween the two main fac­tions of Iran’s lead­er­ship.

“We have a sim­i­lar stance but dif­fer­ent ways of say­ing it,” the papers quoted Ja­fari as say­ing.

Iran’s mod­er­ate pres­i­dent Hasan Rouhani won re­elec­tion less than five months ago after a cam­paign in which he called for bet­ter ties with the out­side world and re­form at home, openly crit­i­cis­ing the in­flu­ence of the IRGC which he ac­cused of back­ing his hard­line op­po­nent. But the mod­er­ates and hard­lin­ers tend to rally to­gether in pub­lic when threat­ened from abroad.

“The Amer­i­cans are too small to be able to harm the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards,” Ali Ak­bar Ve­lay­ati, the top ad­viser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei was quoted as say­ing by ISNA. “We have all op­tions on the ta­ble. What­ever they do, we will take re­cip­ro­cal mea­sures,” he added.

Wash­ing­ton aims to put more pres­sure on the IRGC, es­pe­cially over its mis­sile pro­gramme. Trump said in Septem­ber that re­cent IRGC mis­sile tests il­lus­trated the weak­ness of the nu­clear deal.

Zarif, the Ira­nian for­eign min­is­ter, said in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the At­lantic on Monday: “No party or coun­try need fear our mis­siles … un­less it in­tends to at­tack our ter­ri­tory.”

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